If we were having coffee on this rainy Sunday afternoon, we could curl up on the couch in my tiny 400 square-foot apartment. I don’t have people over very often, as I lack sufficient space for entertaining, but my coffee is most enjoyed at home.
I’d serve your coffee in my second favourite mug, otherwise known as the “love mug”. This mug is adorned with quotes of love by the world’s greatest writers:
Love comforteth like sunshine after rain.– Shakespeare.
That love is all there is, is all we know of love.– Emily Dickinson.
Love conquers All. – Virgil.
I always have my coffee in my Spice Girls mug, a mug I’ve held close to my heart for almost 10 years.
Why Spice Girls, you may ask? Why a love mug? Let me explain.
As a young girl I loved the Spice Girls. Everything I had was Spice Girls. I had everything from the pencil case with a matching plastic backpack, the Spice Girl barbie doll collection, I even opted for the 5¢ Spice Girl gum that came with either a sticker or, even better, a temporary tattoo. When my friends and I would play “Spice Girls”, I was always Sporty Spice. They were a huge part of my childhood.
When the Girls reunited for their reunion tour I was around 15 years old, and I couldn’t afford a ticket to go. I was pretty devastated at the time, my feelings of nostalgia resurfacing. My great friend Lauren was lucky enough to attend the concert, and when she came to school the next day, she surprised me with the Spice Girls mug. Ten years later, I use this mug religiously. Although Lauren and I are separated by thousands of kilometres now, I remind her via pictures how much I still use this mug. I’m so protective of it, I don’t let anyone else use it. Maybe I’m a little crazy, but it’s one of the most thoughtful and most used gifts I’ve ever been given.
As for the love mug you’re currently sipping your coffee out of, its origin story is one of “one man’s junk is another (wo)man’s treasure.”
The summer before university I had been volunteering at an animal rescue shelter that doubled as a second hand shop in the small town of Lakefield, ON. The proceeds from the sales were used to provide food and care for the cats they rescued. One day as I was sorting through boxes of donated items, I came across the love mug. As a lover of literature and the power of love, I just had to have it. What made it even more special was that it had a previous life before it came into my hands. Someone once enjoyed their coffee from this very mug, and rather than toss it out when it lost its novelty, they donated it to a special cause. When it came into my possession it lacked perfection, the hint of old coffee stains left behind, scratches through the hearts surrounding its base. I embrace its imperfections, and I’m glad it’s one of the few possessions of mine that made it across the country with me.
Do you have a sacred mug? What’s its origin story? I’d love to know. Happy Sunday fellow bloggers. 🙂
Inspired by #weekendcoffeeshare. What would you say if we were having coffee?
We arrived in Medicine Hat, Alberta early on August 24th, 2015. We continued on to Calgary and decided to drive around the city for a while since I had never been there before. Jon took me to the rugby pitch he once played at, and we explored a bit of downtown. There’s something I find so calming about driving through a city’s downtown core. I feel as though it’s the window to the city’s soul, revealing beauty and chaos intertwined.
A quick car tour of Calgary was sufficient, as our minds were focused on our next destination: Banff National Park.
Banff and Yoho National Parks
I’ve been struggling to find the words to describe our time in Banff and Yoho National Parks. Yoho is named after a Cree expression for “awe and wonder,” need I say more? The pictures I am sharing are only a glimpse into the displays of nature’s breathtaking beauty.
Once we arrived at Banff National Park and paid for our day passes, we stopped at the shops near Lake Louise to stock up on food for the evening. If you’re planning a trip to Banff, I strongly suggest packing a cooler of food before entering the Park; the prices are nearly double what they would be in a regular grocery store. Our next order of business: find somewhere to camp. While Banff isn’t lacking in campgrounds, every site we found was at its capacity for the evening. Much to my dismay, the campgrounds nearest Lake Louise were full, too. Although I dreamed of camping by the stunning Lake Louise, we continued onwards toward Yoho National Park, and upwards into the mountains.
Although you can’t see over the edge, this drive was terrifying and awe-inspiring all at once. The lanes on these Rocky Mountain-roads were so tight, and if I am not mistaken, we drove upwards for about 20 minutes. Since our entire trip was impromptu, I don’t exactly know how high up we were or how long it took us to get there. We finally pulled over when we found a walk-in campground with vacancies. This campground was definitely designed for a more seasoned camper, and it was a fascinating experience. There was no office to ask questions or pay for your campsite, no showers and little guidance. We eventually figured out the protocol after talking to the other campers. Once you’ve picked an empty campsite, you fill out a card with your information and your campsite number, put the fees in an envelope, and drop it in the designated box. This trust-based system felt very Canadian.
Once we got settled in, we began exploring the area. I am forever grateful that we stumbled upon this particular campground, because it was right next to the glacier waterfall, Takkakaw Falls.
The sound of the falls washed away every thought, every worry, every struggle leading up to that point of our trip. The beauty of the icy-blue glacier stream was unparalleled by anything I had ever seen. Every doubt I had about moving across the country without a plan or a clue as to what was next on the horizon vanished at this moment. When you are surrounded by natural beauty of this scope, everything in life is put into perspective. These mountains have been here for millions of years. They preceded and will succeed my existence. It is truly a humbling experience that can hardly be put into words, and must be experienced to be understood.
Back to reality… It was getting cold as the day turned to evening, and we needed to build a fire. Simple enough task, right? Wrong. All of the kindling we were able to find was damp, and we were struggling to get this fire started for around an hour before a kind family next to us gave us some dry firewood. We continued to struggle because we needed some dry kindling to start the fire. Yet another family came by and provided us with some kindling. We were so amateur compared to the seasoned campers that surrounded us, but their generosity and neighbourly attitude saved us from having a cold, dark evening.
Once our fire was burning, we were joined by a fellow wandering soul. I don’t remember his name, but I will never forget his energy. He was on his own, and had been driving through the Rockies on his motorcycle for the summer, stopping to camp at various sites along the way. His story inspired me. He had found contentment and clarity in simplicity. He didn’t have a regular 9-5 lifestyle, and he wasn’t dragging around a plethora of useless stuff. It was him, his bike and the road. He did, however, share some delicious pastries with us in exchange for us sharing our fire with him. He was the true embodiment of that saying, those who wander are not lost.
As night fell, so did the temperature. I forgot to mention earlier that we decided not to pack sleeping bags, thinking a couple of blankets would suffice. I woke up in the middle of the night, my body completely stiff as we only had a blanket between us, the tent and the ground, and I was freezing. Poor Marley was even shivering, which brought me to tears. The temperature must have been around 0°C or below. Jon in his brilliance decided to put the warmer blanket underneath us to create a warmer barrier between the cold, hard ground. we also brought Marley under the blanket and sandwiched him between us for more warmth. We made it through the night, but it was tough. Lesson learned: Do NOT sacrifice sleeping bags when camping in the mountains.
Final Destination: Vancouver
Although we wanted to stay in the National Parks and continue camping for a few days, we were too ill-prepared to survive sleeping in those conditions. We had one more stop before our final destination: Lake Louise.
Before you comment on my outfit, let me explain. When we woke up that morning I was still freezing, and it was still cold outside. There was no way I was changing out of my pajamas. I was tired, bones still chilled, but euphoric nonetheless. Lake Louise’s beautiful blue and calm water with its mountainous backdrop was so incredibly picturesque it didn’t even seem real.
There’s nothing more that is needed to be said about Lake Louise. If you ever have the chance to experience it, I urge you to. You won’t regret it.
The final stretch of our trip is when reality set in once more. This is it. Once we arrive, the vacation ends and we have to figure out our lives again. Although I was scared, I still didn’t have a single regret. The absolute worst case scenario was that it doesn’t work out and we go back home. Even if that were the case, I still wouldn’t have regretted this trip. In this case, it wasn’t the destination, but the journey that was the most defining part.
The drive to Vancouver was eight hours of driving through the mountains. My jaw was dropped in awe for its entirety.
Arriving in Vancouver was a huge feat. Although our trip had been shortened to half the time of our original plan of 10 days, it felt so good to reach our destination.
As we approached Vancouver, I booked a hotel room for the evening at the Holiday Inn Express in Richmond, BC using Hotwire, a website for getting last minute cheap hotel rates (special thanks to my sister, Kaitlin for recommending this site!). We got a room for around $67/night, which is unheard of in the Vancouver area. Much like our night in Thunder Bay, were thrilled to finally have a bed to sleep in and a shower to use. I think Marley was the most excited of the three of us.
Once we settled in at the hotel, and ordered a celebratory pizza (my favourite), we began apartment hunting on Craigslist. One ad stood out among the rest, and had only been posted a few hours previously. It was a small modern suite in our price range, and the best part was: it was dog friendly. We made an appointment to view the suite the next day, with very high hopes.
We can thank Marley for winning the hearts of the landlords, because after meeting with us three, they agreed to have us sign a lease on the suite, and they even let us move in the following day! Some may call it luck, but I call it fate. Or maybe it’s a bit of both. Jobs followed hastily and with ease. Although I miss my family and friends greatly, the transition into this new life has been surprisingly natural. Maybe it’s because we are two wandering souls hungry for adventure, maybe it’s because we forged the path ourselves. With sharing my story I hope to inspire anyone who may be on the verge of taking a leap of faith, whether it’s deciding to take a big trip, or making a big life-changing decision in general. Thank you for following my journey with me, I hope to have many more journeys and share them with my fellow bloggers and readers.
I will be writing a Part 5 of this series, it will be my final reflection piece on this trip. It will include more details about the signs preceding the trip that should have stopped us from going at all, what I would have done differently and more.
I was nominated for a Liebster Award! To be honest, I didn’t know what it even was until I was nominated. After some research I’ve found out that the Liebster Awards are a fun way to support and promote bloggers of 200 followers or less!
Is there a chance you regret never having taken in life? What was it?
I like to say that I have no regrets, but I do wish I had gotten more involved in university. Carleton University in Ottawa had a student newspaper called The Charlaton, and I wish I had believed in myself enough at the time to submit some writing of my own.
Name three non-material items in life that you just couldn’t live without.
Wow this is a tough question. I’d have to say 1. My Labradoodle, Marley. He is my saviour when I feel any kind of upset. 2. Writing. I hate to state the obvious but, writing. 3. Sleep. I love a good nap.
What’s your secret talent?
It’s a not-so-secret talent to those who know me, but it’s something I haven’t shared on my blog yet. I grew up playing a lot of ice hockey!
Is there anything in life you’re afraid of? What is it and why?
I fear ending up discontent with life. I don’t want to wake up one day wondering how I got there, why I didn’t go after my dreams, and feeling wholly unhappy with how my life turned out. I always want to be true to myself.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten whilst traveling?
I thought I wouldn’t have an answer to this, BUT ALAS, I’ve racked my brain and come up with one: When I was a baby (maybe 2 years old) I was on vacation in the Bahamas with my parents, and I swallowed a penny. My dad had to fish it out of my throat, poor guy.
Have you ever been in a scary situation whilst on the road? How did you get out of it?
In my latest blog post The Road to Vancouver: Part 3 I discuss how we almost got hit head on by an 18-wheeler. We got out of it with sheer luck and fate.
What’s your dream destination and why?
The world is my dream destination. I want to explore everywhere and everything. I feel as though I wouldn’t be able to answer this question until I see everything there is to see. But my next destination will be Sint Maarten in the Caribbean. A place I’ve always dreamed of visiting is Italy.
If you could have a secret power, what would it be?
I’d have to choose flying. I live across the country from my family and friends and I’d love to be able to fly home anytime I wanted to tell them how much I love them. Also, I’d fly all over the world!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
When I’m having a night in by myself, I love to watch Sex and the City. Carrie Bradshaw has the dream life, writing in New York City and always wearing beautiful shoes. I want to be the Canadian version of her, except I usually just wear Vans.
Who do you have a, “life crush”, on, i.e is there anybody out there doing amazing, inspiring things that you’d like to get to know better?
MalalaYousafzai! Her fight for female equality is so inspiring it gives me chills. She is so outspoken and honest, I wish I had a role model like her when I was growing up.
What do you do to shake up your routine when you get bored?
Quite literally move across the country. I’d like to say I was kidding about this one, but I’m not. Travel is my answer to boredom.
11 Random Facts About Me:
This section appears to be optional, but I thought I might as well:
I am an introvert
I have an LG G4 phone (R.I.P Iphone)
I bite my nails (I know it’s gross)
I only recently became more confident in sharing my writing online
Pizza is my life
My boyfriend and I have a Labradoodle named Marley
I ache to travel more
I dislike drinking
I love yoga
I am not religious but I love the study of religion
Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.
(Summer, 2014) Stagnant- that is how my existence felt post-graduation in Ottawa, ON. I had pursued a university education solely to study topics I loved the most: world religion, literature, writing, philosophy, and of utmost importance, the human condition. I loved everything I studied, but as graduation approached, the reality of the matter began to set in: I hadn’t the slightest idea what was going to happen next. In June 2014 I graduated with a Bachelor of Humanities with a double minor in English and Religion. I had a 40,000 dollar piece of paper, absolutely no job prospects and zero direction.
Immediately following graduation I began working at a pub in Ottawa. At the time this job was a blessing. My entire university career was poverty level, balancing the stress of assignments with the nagging thought, how can I afford to eat this week? I was finally in a place where I could comfortably pay my bills, afford to fill the fridge with food, and with a little extra on the side. It was extremely rewarding to not worry about money. At least, for a while it was. On a daily basis customers would ask, what do you want to do? what did you get your degree in? And what do you plan to do with that? I hated these questions with a passion. They angered me. These were the questions I was suppressing, I didn’t want to think about them. When my family posed these same questions, I’d have the same reaction. My chest would tighten, I’d feel short of breath. My biggest fear at the time was that I wouldn’t amount to anything, I’d disappoint my family, and ultimately I’d disappoint myself. There is no amount of money that can heal those wounds.
(Summer 2015) It was during this time that Jon and I would talk about our dreams. Where we would travel, what we wanted to do with our lives. We talked about these things on a daily basis, yet we were so lethargic that I wondered if we would ever make it happen or if we would succumb to the reality of our lives in Ottawa, and give up on our wandering dreams. As I explained in Part 1, Vancouver had always been a dream destination for myself, and having lived there previously himself, Jon confirmed that it lived up to its reputation. My dream of a trip across Canada re-emerged. One evening Jon came into my work while I was bar-tending and asked me if I wanted to make our dreams a reality, drive across Canada and settle in Vancouver. Of course my answer was YES!! And so it was settled. Two impulsive 20-somethings were going to drive across the country and live in Vancouver.
The Art of Budgeting, Downsizing and Letting Go
We began half-heartedly planning what we would do once we actually arrived in Vancouver, focusing all of our energy on planning the trip itself. Our first order of business was to begin saving rather than spending. I had to kick my materialistic habits, so rather than spending my tips at Sephora, I’d put them into our Vancouver savings jar. Since neither of us had taken a trip of this capacity, it was difficult to really know how much money we would need. We came up with a rough estimate by drafting a budget. Our original plan was to leave around August 19th and spend 10 days on the road so we could take our time, enjoy various camp sites and explore our beautiful country. Our (approximate) budget was as follows:
Gas: ≈ $400
CAA (Canadian Automobile Association): $100
Food: ≈ $200
Rent (First month, security deposit, pet deposit): minimum $2000
Camping costs (Equipment, campsite costs): ≈ $400
Living costs upon arrival: ≈$2000
Total cost: ≈$5100
Since our job hunt would begin upon arrival, we needed to have as much extra money as possible to support ourselves until we began receiving an income. We only had a couple of months to save $5100, and with our combined income this goal was next to impossible. Furthermore, Jon’s Mazda 3 sedan was not going to fit us, our dog and all of our belongings, so the answer was clear: Anything we didn’t absolutely need was to be sold on Kijiji. We sold our electronics such as our TV and Playstation 3, any furniture that hadn’t been found on the side of the road, and the most heart-breaking, our hockey equipment. We rid ourselves of everything and anything that could help us reach our goal. We did in fact reach our goal, yet we still had way too much stuff to bring with us to Vancouver. The downsizing continued, this time with the one area of our apartment I had been avoiding: the closet.
I had 4 categories for my clothes and shoes:
Clothes to bring for the trip
Clothes to have shipped via Greyhound (1 box each cost around $50/box; we decided on 2)
Clothes to leave at my parents house
Clothes to throw away
Much to my surprise and disappointment, this part of the downsizing was by far the most difficult for me. It really confirmed how attached I was to material belongings, so much so that I had numerous emotional breakdowns while trying to decide which clothes I had to let go of. I remember sitting surrounded by piles of my clothes, crying my eyes out as I threw that little black dress that I loved (and wore once) into the “throw away” pile, while simultaneously yelling at myself for caring so much. We were finally taking that leap to make irreplaceable memories, yet I couldn’t let go of replaceable clothes? Once I began to look at the bigger picture, letting go of my material belongings became much easier, almost like a weight off my chest. I learned so much about myself simply in the process of preparing for the trip. I realized I had been buying happiness. I was trying to fill a void with stuff rather than experiences. Why spend $50 on a new eyeshadow palette when that money could be spent camping for two nights in Banff? Spending money on stuff brings instant gratification, but experiences are priceless. We packed and unpacked the car until we finally made everything fit, each time downsizing more and more. Eventually, everything we absolutely needed fit, and that felt like a huge feat.
Lake Louise, Banff, AB.
As our departure date approached, we still hadn’t the slightest clue where we were going to live or work upon arrival. Our attempts to solidify a living situation failed because most rentals in Vancouver aren’t pet-friendly, and those who were wanted to meet us and Marley prior to making any arrangements. We had however planned our route. We decided to take the Trans Canada Highway, the most direct and fool-proof route for first time road-trippers.
We would span 5 provinces (Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia). We used Google Maps to pinpoint campsites in each province that were also easily accessible via the Trans Canada Highway. While we could have planned an even more scenic trip by venturing off-track, we decided it would be best to play it safe and allow the Trans Canada to guide us.
And so, on August 20th, 2015, our adventure across Canada began, with only a destination in mind.
Part 3 and beyond will cover our experiences on our journey, from a sneak peak of the Northern Lights to breathtaking Banff and even a near death experience. Also, if there is interest, I want to conclude by writing a reflection on what I learned on this trip, and what I would have done differently.
I have a vision, a vague idea of a story I want to write, a story that may soon be a reality, but I can’t seem to get it on paper. It’s soft Sci-Fi, set about 50 years in the future, focusing on the development of social media and our obsession with it. How lives are lived solely for bragging rights on social media forums. The things we do in our lives are done to create a buzz, to gain attention, not to find true happiness or satisfaction. Our lives become electronic; real life falls second to your online presence. We are controlled by what we want others to think of us.